Sleeping On The Right Side

Have you ever wondered why you sleep on a certain side of the bed? I’ve read a few different discussions on this. Some having to do with power positions, some with familiarity, some with where your parents kept you as a baby.

What I’ve found most interesting is returning to a bed after awhile. Maybe it’s your high school bed when you’re home visiting parents, or you lived with someone for awhile and are back on your own. What I’ve noticed is that you crave the same position. Even if you slept on the opposite side for years.

I tend to switch sides when I’m on my own, and usually end up towards the middle of the bed. I’ve always wondered if we have some type of sleep muscle memory. Maybe our bodies remember every night of sleep, and the environment, even though our conscious brain doesn’t.

Go For A Walk

When was the last time you went for a walk? And I don’t mean walked somewhere specific, like to a store. Or walked with your cellphone out on a business call. I mean the opposite of these; a real walk.

It’s the middle of summer right now. And we all have a million things going on with work, and family, and friends. Juggling all these projects, or moving, or trying to close that next deal. What better time to take thirty minutes for yourself?

My challenge to you is to walk. Without bringing your phone. Without a specific destination. Just leave your front door and walk somewhere, either around the neighborhood or around work. Explore. **Without**a path in mind ahead of time. Resist that urge to mentally map your route. Please. Just move your feet, let the mind wander, let the day swoop you up. If it’s raining, put on some clothes that can get wet. If it’s sunny, put on a hat.

Just go. And remember to smile at people. Odds are, even in NYC, that they will smile back.

An Addiction to the Morning

Over the years I’ve experimented with a whole variety of morning routines for one simple reason. How you start your day sets the tone for the entire day. Want to have a great day? Kick ass for the first 30 minutes.

If you’ve followed Leo Babuta, Tim Ferriss, or any major trend from lifehacking.com, you’ll know that changing a habit it works best if you do it first thing in the morning.

While I was in business school here’s how my morning looked:
– Wake up
– Pull open my iPhone/laptop and look at Facebook and email
– Browse either random sites or follow things from the previous day

Does this sound familiar?

Afterwards, I’d likely take a shower or go eat a bowl of cereal. At this point I’ve been awake for 90 to 120 minutes. And I’d feel like crap. I’d have to go to class, or meet a team, or work on a project. And I hadn’t taken care of myself.

I had ambitions to blog, meditate, exercise, and read a good book every single day. I wanted to do these things. I could have done some of them in that first 90-120 minutes of the day. But I had my routine. Does this sound familiar?

After finishing graduate school I went on my Rumspringa. I spent 6 months traveling and reading all the non-MBA related materials that helped shape my life. I was intentional about documenting which things worked for me, and which didn’t.

What I found was pretty shocking (to me) and now feels like an obvious answer. Do the 2-3 most important things for the day first. Duh.

Let me reinforce this, if you go make a pot of coffee to “wake up” this becomes a daily habit. And guess what, your brain associates this as one of the most important things because you do it first. That slot is filled. You don’t get 5 or 6 slots. There aren’t 10 most important areas to focus on.

The most interesting and annoying piece of the puzzle for me came when I took a step back from what the life coaches were teaching. It was to NOT make a set pattern. Not in total at least. What do I mean here?

I now give myself 3 things in the morning that are musts every day. I meditate immediately when I wake up. I then exercise after that – whether its a walk or run on vacation, or lifting weights when I’m home. My old self would go shower, or make a protein shake, or go get breakfast out and read. I’ve tested a lot of different patterns here, some intentionally the same for a month or two and some with variability. This is what I’ve found that shocked me… If I leave the third slot open for what is most important to me that day, it gets done.

Let’s take a step back for a second and examine this. I know that meditation and exercise influence my mood and health and color my interactions for the rest of the day. Always. Every single day. So I make them #1 and #2. Before anything else. I don’t look at email or return calls from the night before. This way I never feel guilty about missing exercise or meditation, and I don’t pretend like I’ll do them later in the day. Because stuff always comes up. I find reasons not to do either of these two things I want to do.

By leaving the third slot open, I get to be flexible. Today, my third slot was the re-installation of music production software on my laptop so that I have plugins. That way I won’t have an excuse internally if the mood strikes me later to work on a new track. Yesterday, I spent 45 minutes writing the book I’ve been working on. It can vary every day, and I like this. Tomorrow, I may blog first, or go grocery shopping, or call my parents. Whatever it is, I let it be flexible, but it’s a non-negotiable. And I do it before I shower or eat (depending on how long it will take, I sometimes do a road smoothie if it requires me to be out of the house).

It’s taken me about 4 years to find this balance, and the quality of my life has improved dramatically when I follow this prescription. If you are looking to begin a meditation or exercise practice I recommend the age-old advice of starting small with an accountability partner. Meditate and exercise for five minutes each to begin, but start with one at a time. And be realistic about what your most important life tasks are right now.

If you are trying to get out of debt, spend 5 minutes looking at what you spent the day before and your financial picture. If you are trying to de-clutter your house, go spend 5 minutes in the garage or basement organizing. Do these things before work, family, and school become mental interruptions that drain your willpower supply.

Why Trains Are Awesome

Travel by train is how I think we will feel about travel by car in a decade. You get into a locomotive, and go somewhere.

The beauty is in the letting go. You know there will be some stops, maybe a delay, but that you will arrive. This letting go and arriving feels wonderful — it’s natural rather than forced.

The second piece of beauty is in the tracks. Train tracks go where cars don’t. You get to see an entirely different perspective on your trip. Savor the view.

Eyes Open

How often do you just sit still, in a seat, with your eyes open? Doing nothing. Saying nothing, not focusing intently on things around you. Just having space.

Give it a try. Take three minutes, or five, to just sit still. Watch what happens inside.

Let’s Travel with Mindfulness

I’ve been home a lot lately due to work on my startup and the upcoming move. It’s led me to a couple of larger realizations that I’m enjoying digging in to.

The first, and largest, is that I’m incredibly more productive when I have travel as a regular part of my life. For some reason, being on an airplane, in the airport, a hotel, or a bus seems to be the ideal place for me to focus on work.

The second, is that I find myself able to have great higher-level thoughts while traveling. I’m able to take a step back, do some major project planning, or make major life decisions with a clarity I don’t normally have in my daily life. I don’t profess to be a road warrior or an epic traveler. However, both have been consistent for me for most of my adult life (aside from a couple of years where I developed a crippling fear of flying, but that’s a tale for another post…).

Let’s dig in to why and how I believe this works.

At the core, is my brain’s disassociation with my current space. I think this alone is responsible for the bulk of why I am able to do this. Likely, I’ve had to train myself to do this over the years — I tended to make myself read and listen to music since high school.

I used to play games, or sleep (I can easily sleep an entire flight), but now I read or create. When I started my longer-term travel about 4 years ago I made the conscious choice to spend time reading on planes and writing my ideas into Evernote. I have several longer notes about the direction I’d like to take my life, the someday/maybe lists of projects, and even deeper pondering of ethics.

When I go back to these, the training related to the space is again key. It’s an actual trigger for me to get into an almost meditative state. It’s like a free pass not to play games or watch TV.

As I delve deeper it leads me to wonder what would happen if I made a similar and intentional effort in some space at home. If I have a chair, or a position on the couch, that is dedicated to reading. So when I’m there, I read. And if I have a coffee shop where I go and only work. Have you tried creating a hard boundary on your space?

While the travel is often necessary for work, I’ve never had a good or productive time at home. I don’t keep a computer in the bedroom and until my recent relationship haven’t had a TV there either since high school. I know that when I am oriented towards a screen, I will likely use it.

I’ll spend some time testing this theory out over the next couple of months and report back. As I moved last week I have the chance for a fresh start for new space. This gives me the ability to intentionally create locations for specific tasks.

Let me know if you have the same things happen while traveling, either related to being able to focus, or if you’re able to set locations to work this way while on the road. I’d love any tips or tricks for turning off distractions. the way it is forced during travel!